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Communications minister tries to block footage of service delivery protest at ANC Eastern Cape manifesto launch

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams tried to block journalists from filming a protest at the ANC’s Eastern Cape manifesto launch.

According to Sanef, the protesters were there to raise their concerns about service delivery, but Ndabeni-Abrahams had tried to block media coverage as the protesters were ‘out of order’.

Sanef has raised concerns that this isn’t exactly what anybody wants to see coming from the minister who appoints the SABC’s bosses.

Sanef praised the SABC for showing the footage anyway – as this showed the state broadcaster’s dedication to its own independence.

Abrahams has apologised for her actions.

However Sanef was concerned at how she described it as an ‘altercation’, this is a little more serious than that.

This isn’t the first time this month that Sanef has had to raise concerns about the behaviour of the ANC regarding media freedom.

On 5 February Sanef released a statement about how Durban Mayor, Zandile Gumede, used metro police officers to try and stop a press briefing that was called by the Democratic Alliance to discuss fraud and corruption by city officials.

8 armed police officers ordered journalists to vacate the DA’s caucus room on instructions by Gumede’s office.

“We were told by Metro Police that the Mayor had instructed them to remove journalists from the caucus room as we had no permission to be there.

“There were 8 armed officers waiting outside the caucus room to escort us out. We were afraid. As we were packing up our gear, we heard a loud commotion outside and found our colleagues being manhandled by officers,” said one journalist according to Sanef’s statement.

According to Sanef Gumede’s actions take us back to the sort of terror leveled against journalists by Apartheid security forces.

My Take

One of the things I don’t like about the far left right now, on a global scale, is the habit of trying to deplatform their opposition.

A lot of the time it is justified by the philosophy of Karl Popper as expressed by this comic:

Here’s the thing, the argument rests on the idea that those who preach intolerance and persecution are more convincing than those who don’t.

And it further rests upon the idea that you are preventing the rise of those elements. The interesting thing about the Weimer Republic is that they did in fact have hate speech laws.

They didn’t work, because even back then you couldn’t deprive bigots of their platform, you could only drive the platform underground where it could go unanswered.

You cannot make laws and expect them to be followed. Some laws are just unenforceable in any practical way, you see this with racism today – when you’ve got people who celebrate the deaths of children because they were born the wrong colour?

It takes more than just the law to deal with that.

It also assumes that the levers of power are in the hands of the tolerant, and that is rarely the case. A large faction of the ruling party pushed the “White Monopoly Capital” meme specifically in order to build racial tensions and thus distract from the ruling party’s corruption scandals.

The EFF are a thoroughly racist party, yet in all practicality what can the law really do? When Julius Malema was head of the ANCYL he referred to the DA’s then leader in Parliament as a tea lady – the racist and sexist coding in that was clear and the ANC did nothing.

To do anything about the Malema’s racism now would simply be add to the EFF’s cache, because we couldn’t honestly claim the ANC has an even handed approach.

The primary motivation in these arguments about legal tolerance for hateful speech is fear – the fear that people will find this speech convincing,  but on a practical scale the laws do not appear to work.

And this is the same fear is the motivator for the ANC’s push for censorship.

In 2016 then COO of the SABC Hlaudi Motsoeneng had barred the SABC from covering violent protests. He also applied pressure upon journalists to more positively cover Jacob Zuma.

He was eventually fired from his position, after an internal disciplinary hearing found him guilty of bringing the SABC into disrepute, and causing it irreparable harm.

His appeal to the CCMA was dismissed in 2018, according to The South African.

In 2016 Zuma was already on the way out – the corruption within his regime had already started to hit critical mass, and thus his supporters wanted control over the message in the news, because the news wasn’t good for him.

Motsoeneng’s actions were born of the fact that the ruling party sucked, and letting everybody know that they weren’t alone in thinking, that their grievances were not isolated cases, threatened Zuma’s rule.

But that rule ended up coming to an end anyway – and part of the case against Zuma was the attempted censorship of the news. Rather than helping Zuma, it became just one more thing that made us all think he was a terrible president.

And the same thing is going on here – do you get the impression of a functional ruling party when they’re manhandling journalists in a bid to prevent them from hearing the opposition?

Do you get the impression of strong service delivery when the minister of communication tries to stop coverage of a service delivery protest?

In order to deal with our issues, whatever they may be, requires us to deal with the issues. Shutting down the other side doesn’t work, because they will not be shut down, what we’ve got to do is make our cases.

That is hard, that is frequently infuriating, and it can be dangerous – but it is the only way.

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